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Staying alert and alive during the holidays

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 by Rhonda Locke

Every year there is an unfortunate spike in road fatalities during the end of year holiday season, and given 30% are associated with fatigue, we can expect to see lives lost unnecessarily again this year.

We know drivers tend to drive tired during the holidays because they travel further than at other times of the year visiting family and friends. Often in the days and weeks prior to taking leave they have to work longer hours and therefore they also have a build-up of sleep deprivation.

We’d like to encourage everyone planning short and long distance drives this holiday season to ensure they do not drive drowsy. To help, we’ve provided some tips which should hopefully make you stop and think before getting behind the wheel.

Tips to avoid drowsy driving

  • 150-200mg of caffeine or 2-3 cups of coffee is effective for temporarily improving alertness, with benefits to fatigue-related risk for drivers that can last 1-2 hours.
  • Don’t drive at times of the day when you would normally be sleeping. Your body wants to sleep and it will be more difficult to stay alert.
  • Change drivers regularly and take advantage of rest stops every couple of hours.
  • If you don’t have the option of changing drivers regularly, we recommending taking caffeine (tablet or liquid format) just before a short nap in order to get the benefit from both countermeasures. The caffeine will take 15 – 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream, during which time a driver has an opportunity to take a power nap. Upon waking, the driver will have the alerting benefits of sleep and the additional benefits of the caffeine.
    • It is also important to be aware of certain factors which influence caffeine effects, including;
    • Tolerance: a frequent coffee drinker may need a higher dose of caffeine to obtain the same alerting effects as a less frequent coffee drinker
    • Dosage: Most adults can consume 2-3 cups of coffee without any recognised health risks or negative effects. Six or more cups of coffee per day (more than about  600 mg of caffeine) is considered excessive and can result in negative side effects such as palpitations, nervousness, headaches, diuretic effects and insomnia
    • Effectiveness: Caffeine consumed through coffee or energy drinks can take up to 30 minutes to become effective
    • Timing: Consuming caffeine too late in the day can also disrupt subsequent sleep. Recovery sleep within approximately 3 hours of taking 200-300mg caffeine may disrupt the onset, quality and quantity of sleep

Any road fatality is tragic but more so if it can be avoided with better fatigue management.

Stay safe and enjoy your well-earned holiday.

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